PalermoCopyright: Viada Zhi/Shutterstock.com
PalermoCapital of the beautiful region of Sicily, Palermo is a fascinating hidden gem awaiting to be discovered. This busy port city pulsates with vibrant energy, embodying a perpetual transformation that has firmly reinstated it among Europe's cultural hubs. Palermo is full of sights and treasures: from ornate Baroque churches and glorious Norman-Gothic architecture to elegant Art Nouveau villas and lively markets. Amidst the chaotic streets, the city's flamboyant spirit thrives, offering a delightful surprise at every turn.
The CityThe Phoenicians founded Palermo as a trade port in 700 BC, and a long string of rulers followed. Carthage was the first to conquer it, followed by the Romans, the Vandals, and Arabian rulers who transformed it into a magical city with mosques, minarets, and markets. During the Crusades, the city was conquered by the Normans who continued building on the Arabian legacy of tolerance and enlightenment. That era is known as Palermo's "Golden Era". Today, tourists are discovering a city with an exciting mix of medieval areas with clothes hung on lines between buildings and elegant residential districts with palm trees and palatial villas. Palermo is a city with stunning historical sights, a mouth-watering gastronomy tradition, crystal-clear waters, and an energetic atmosphere.
Do & See
Thanks to its rich and varied history, Palermo and its surrounding areas are full of architectural treasures just waiting to be discovered. Many of the sights are conveniently situated in the city centre: in the Old Town, you'll find treasures like Palazzo dei Normanni, as well as the beautiful Santa Caterina Church, and the spectacular Piazza Pretoria. For a getaway from the hustle and bustle of the city, the beautiful volcanic island of Ustica is a safe bet and will not disappoint you.
Sicilian cuisine is rustic but exciting, thanks to the influence of the many cultural influences the island has had over the years. Eating at small neighbourhood trattorias is highly recommended, as is visiting the historical markets where the extraordinary street food tradition of Palermo can be enjoyed. From the glorious rotisserie products and Sicilian pizza to the freshest seafood specialities, Palermo won't leave any culinary desire unfulfilled.
Besides the excellent espresso, Palermo has some peculiar coffee-based alternatives of its own, like granita al caffè (frozen ice with coffee and whipped cream) or gran caffè (a cappuccino without milk). To complement your coffee, choose among plenty of delicious patisserie products: try the famous dessert cassata (a sponge cake moistened with fruit juices or liqueur and layered with ricotta cheese and candied fruit) or the Sicilian cannoli stuffed with ricotta cheese and pistachio.
Bars & Nightlife
The nightlife in Palermo follows the same pattern as in other Mediterranean cities: much of the gathering happens before dinner, and when the meal is over — sometimes not until midnight — it’s time to head back to the bars. The nightclubs don’t fill up until late in the night, and thanks to the student population, Palermo has a vibrant nightlife. As always, the trendiest nightclubs of the moment can be found by asking the locals.
Shopping in Palermo is a true delight: a city where you'll find a little bit of everything, from boutiques of high fashion to colourful markets selling fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish, as well as clothes and crafts. At the street markets, you'll find great bargains and experience the unique Palermitan atmosphere. The largest historical markets are La Vucciria, Capo, and Ballarò. If you're looking for famous Italian fashion brands instead, head over to Via Libertà, a street lined with both Italian and European high fashion labels. When in Palermo, bring a typical, hand-craft souvenir back home that can remind you of your trip: painted pottery, coral jewellery, copper-ware or food delicatessen.